Monday, May 30, 2011

Chelsea

The other day I went to see Cao Fei's brilliant show at Lombard-Freid Projects on West 19th Street in Chelsea.  I had never realized the gallery has a garden terrace which makes for a wonderfully truncated view of Frank Gehry's stunning IAC building on 11th Avenue and 19th Street.
The building is as perfect as the Parthenon and to me (along with his Disney Hall) represents the height of Gehry's achievement.  The scale and materiality as well as the complete grasp of site is of the highest order.  Across the street is Jean Nouvel's residential 100 11th Avenue--a building whose spirit owes more to the Gehry of 1978 than the more classically inclined master today.  Some dislike Nouvel's building, but I find it another in the series of great  buildings that have popped up in NYC over the past 3 years:  Gehry's IAC and 8 Spruce St., Thom Mayne's Cooper-Union, Piano's Morgan Library and  Foster's Hearst Building and Diller and Scofidio's remarkable High Line transformation.

This has lifted the game of ordinary NYC architecture remarkably.  In Brooklyn,  the Williamsburg area is dotted with sleek 4/5 story glass boxes that update the brownstone for the 21st Century.    In Manhattan,  every new tower has to at least look like architecture.  In the 80s and 90s the ubiquitous new NYC building was a brick atrocity made  by the cheap on the cheap.  Richard Meier's twin towers along West Street nearly a decade ago helped higher the bar and even though so many buildings have copied it ever since (like the building I live in), if you have to copy something, it may as well be that one.   

To be sure there have been some disappointments;  Piano's New York Times building is a dry hulking nothing while MoMA's Taniguchi expansion is uninspired.   But overall, the city has never looked better shedding the dowdiness that had always characterized New York City until recently.  Of course some would argue that's what happens when you transform a city into a place primarily for the upper middle class and beyond.  But I'm just judging the buildings and not really considering the great tragedy of losing that crappy deli down the street that had been here since 1959.  

Cao Fei is at Lombard-Fried through June 25 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sorry Didn't Do It

Ed Schultz called right-wing radio personality Laura Ingraham a "right-wing slut" on his radio show the other day and then after a painful apology over the incident on his cable show took a one-week leave of absence.   I caught Schultz midway through his on air self-flagellation over the insult and had no idea what it was about until I looked on-line. Before doing this, just from watching Schultz I had thought he must have called Laura a cunt.  But slut?  As in "Jane you ignorant slut?"  Slut?  

The right-wing can conjure up the most vile images of racist, slanderous, and unfair characterizations of the President and anyone they deem anathema to their ideology and apologies are never required.  Laura Ingraham is not the all-around bag of bones that is Ann Coulter and for whom no female epithet is too severe, but little Laura has a history of viciousness that rivals the Fat Man himself.  

We know her homophobic activities as an undergraduate at Dartmouth speak of the darkness at the heart of her being.  She's the right-winger who infiltrated campus gay groups then wrote letters to the parents of students at these meetings telling them about their children's sexual
orientation.   Perhaps equally appalling is that she once dated Dinesh D'Souza.  

So Ed, don't be so hard on yourself.  You may have gone too far, but let's not go overboard.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to A Man

Today is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday.   There isn't much to be said about him that hasn't been said a million times.   His music made musical history and his music helped changed history.  He is a world cultural figure as important and great as Picasso, Beckett, Pollock, Mies and Corbusier to name a few of the few.  

To quote his only peer in the particularly vaunted place he resides, "long may you run, long may you run."   Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman. 

For a more complete take on Dylan please click to my article on the Mono Recordings.....
http://maxestenger.blogspot.com/2010/11/dylan-mono-box-set.html

PS:  Already the Dylanologists are taking me to task in emails about equating Neil Young with Dylan.  Obviously there's no contest in cultural and musical significance--you can tell the history of Rock music and leave out Neil Young but not vice versa.  I get it.  But as recording and performing artists of original music Young is right up with Dylan.  In fact,  if you only take each's best 50 recordings, it's arguable that Neil will have a few more, just as I know that from 50-100 Bob will have way more.  Think of it this way, Dylan is Warhol and Young is Ed Ruscha  and maybe Ed Ruscha is a great pop artist too. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dr. Stephen Hawking: Heaven is A Myth

In places like Iran, Colombia, Somalia, and rural villages in Italy (not to mention Alabama), the news from Dr. Hawking is not good.  

In an interview published Monday in The Guardian newspaper, the 69-year-old says the human brain is a like a computer that will stop working when its components fail.
He says: "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/16/stephen-hawking-heaven-is-a-myth_n_862394.html

The dark can be scary and the finality of never existing again is even more frightening but such is the human condition.  We are the only species that from the moment of consciousness or 5 years of age,  knows that we will one day die.   Is it any wonder that the original snake oil salesmen of organized religion (those dessert rats that gave us the big three) knew immortality was the ticket to greater market share?  But the real truth is that you don't see grandma, grandpa, mom, dad and your great German Shepherd dog of childhood again--ever.  That's why we are all sad when someone we love dies.  They are never coming back and we will never see them again. We all know this.  It's just that some want to pretend it isn't so. I give religion another 50 years in the first world, and 75 in the rest.

Tragedy at Trader Joe's


Yesterday I witnessed a horrific scene on 6th Avenue and 20th Street.  In front of the Trader Joe's, three bags of newly purchased groceries were run over by a tan livery cab.  Strewn throughout the asphalt was an assortment of TJ's groceries--broken beer bottles, smashed soda cans, squashed Butter Chicken frozen dinners and chicken enchiladas.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Right-Wing Revisionism and Imagine For A Moment....

The killing of Osama Bin Laden has been the worst week for American Conservatives since Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008.  It was painful to watch the Sean Hannity Show on the Fox News Channel with Rudolph Giuiliani as his guest.  It took nearly 3 minutes into his interview to hear Giuliani utter the words President Obama.  Before that we heard about how President Bush was to be commended for all his work on the War on Terror. 
And they all got the memo:  mention Bush's resilience, mention (without evidence) that torture had provided the intelligence to get Bin Laden. The resilience of Bush?   The same Bush who in an embarrassing rambling March 2002 press conference on Bin Laden all of a sudden was proclaiming his lack of interest in Bin Laden?  That  Bush? 
Of course, if Bin Laden had been captured or killed a week later Bush would have been preening like a teenage girl on prom night over Bin Laden's corpse and calling himself the Terror Conquerer. The Bush presidency was what Conservative governance looks like. Now, the Right runs away from Bush as some sort of apostate.  But what exactly wasn't conservative about Bush?  Tax cuts for the wealthy?  Check.  Anti-abortion, anti-stem cell  research, anti-Gay,  anti-Science?  Check.  Preemptive wrong headed war?  Big check.
Pack the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues? Double check.  Deficits as far as the eye can see?  Check.  Bush and Cheney ran the most conservative administration since Calvin Coolidge.  It was a disaster for the United States and if you happened to live in Iraq and found yourself on the wrong end of a bomb or bullet, lethal. 

This is the restoration that is promised by the Right in 2012.   The Right's fealty is not to this country or Constitution but to Conservatism.  There are no American triumphs unless they are Right Wing triumphs.  They are consumed by ideology.  They love money and pretend to love Jesus.  They are chauvinists of the worst kind.   


Imagine  that between 1993-2001 George W. Bush had been President and turned over the reins in January 2001 to a Democrat named Barack Obama.  Imagine also that he had handed over the same country that Bill Clinton had really handed him.

Imagine then that within 9 months of peace and prosperity, President Obama had been out reading to children in school and the United States was attacked on 9/11/01 and thousands had died? And this after the smoking gun of an August memo warning of planes crashing into buildings?   Would Republicans have given President Obama a pass and said we are all with you now?  Sure, maybe on the way to his execution.

But George W. Bush got a pass. He had the special pass that is called straight white male privilege.  He could then even invade a country on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction,  kill thousands, waste trillions, find NO weapons and still get reelected.  If that had been Obama some wingnut  would have been calling for a repeal of the 13th Amendment. 

Do I wish President Barack Obama was more pugnacious with his enemies and with Wall Street?  Yes.  But in 2011 America, Barack Obama is about the best we can do.  And since we have to judge Presidents versus other Presidents, this one is the best we have had in a long, long time.  Only the LBJ of 1964-1966 was better, and that was only in the extraordinary circumstances of assassination.   And then he threw it all away.   But greatness has eluded all but a tiny few,  let's see when this one decides to roll back the empire before that's even in the equation. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The May Day Surprise


                        (photos above are fakes)
President Obama's dramatic announcement on late Sunday evening concerning the killing of Osama bin Laden was an obvious triumph for the United States and President Obama.  Ironically, the October surprise that many liberals feared would come either on the eve of the 2004 and 2008 elections never materialized.  Governments are not that smart (especially Conservative ones) and so in '04 Bush happened to luck into bin Laden's own rogue election eve broadcast.

But it took a liberal Democratic president who focused as both a candidate and Commander In Chief on Afghanistan and Pakistan and not the Neo-Con created catastrophe of Iraq that got the job done. And no amount of lying and distortion by Fox News and the pill popping fat man will erase the meaning of  what will be many forthcoming photos of all the strategy meetings held by Obama and his National Security team focusing on this mission.  

The United States Government should also consider hiring filmmaker Michael Moore as an analyst.  Everything Moore proclaimed at the Academy Awards ceremony before the Iraq invasion in 2002  turned out to be true,  and Moore has been saying for years that:
"Osama bin Laden is a multi-millionaire--and if there's one thing I've learned about the rich it's that they don't live in caves for 9 years.  Bin Laden is either dead or hiding out in a place where his money protects him." Moore, October 7, 2010

That's a lot better track record than the Daniel Pipes', Richard Wolfowitzs, William Kristols and Dick Cheneys Neo-Con lunacy.  

As someone who has lived in this city  for over 20 years and  was here on that September day in 2001, I am relieved and happy that Bin Laden was killed.   That day nearly 10 years ago was frightening on many levels.  While so many of the Red State warriors play tough guy in bumfuck nowhere waiting for Al-Qaeda to attack the local Walmart, those of us here in New York City have been in the crossfire of the terror threat.  

During the immediate days after the attack, besides the stench of death that permeated the air, Manhattan was in essence under martial law as the NYPD secured every block of midtown.  The tiny three-story loft building where I lived in at the time was empty.  I was the only full-time resident.  The Park Avenue matron who used the 2nd floor as an art studio was still in the Hamptons while the ground floor tenants--Yemani pretzel cart vendors-- escaped to Brooklyn for 8 days until the coast was clear.  I thought for sure they had been involved.
Such was the climate back then. 

It's now time to consider bringing the boys and girls home. It's now time to consider what the costs of empire are.  

PS:  The first tweet of the bin Laden killing was posted on Twitter by Keith Urbahn, former chief of staff to Donald Rumsfeld.  Urbahn's tweet at 10:25 EST was: "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn."  According to the Guardian,
Urbahn's reputable person was Rumsfeld, who was informed by George W. Bush, who'd been phoned by Obama before the public announcement.  Good going big mouth Bushy!